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What kind of algae is this? The more I read, the more questions...


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I've got 3 nano tanks that have been set up for six weeks (edit: up since Aug 1. Brain fog math error). The shrimp/snails/fish in all three are doing great. The plants in two are also great, a little algae, but just enough to keep the snails happy.

Then there is THIS 5gal portrait tank. The one I thought about for weeks while watching aquascape and getting excited by the hobby again. Even the java fern has struggled! 

The original light with the kit was said to be ok for low light (this is lo tech too btw), but the crypts, moss, and hair grass, etc., weren't thriving, even with 12hrs on a timer. Stem plants I added three weeks ago drastically melted and I had to deal with a bacteria bloom followed by managing a small ammonia (.1ppm) and then nitrite spike (.1ppm). Daily water changes of 20% helped. 

Decided it was time for a better light and some liquid fert (I did use an aqua soil also). I already had a bit of brown algae on surfaces, but knew this was common in new setups, and it made the snails happy.

Added light, hoped the Buce and what was left of the melted stem planta would bounce back. The easy green arrived and I gave it one stingy pump since it is 5 gal. Within 3 days I had brown cotton candy throughout all the tank, but more closer to the light.

Is it brown algae in a thread form? Hair algae that happens to be brown? I can remove a lot with a chopstick and in just a couple of hours it comes back with a vengeance. Afraid to add more fert, worried that if I drop light, I lose my struggling plants. Photos are from a couple of days ago, threads are spreading considerably lower now even as I remove quite a bit 1-2x daily.

Probably have been overfeeding a bit as there is are 10 juvie chili rasboras I was worried about feeding enough. The betta is fine with them but no cleanup crew except nerite and bladder snails. The snails are enjoying the brown algae on surfaces, but not sure they can really go after all this suspended threadlike stuff and adding any other cleanup crew isn't an option because mean betta.

Well water with a likely high iron content, 7.2 out of the tap. In the tank:

Ph 7.3

Ammonia/Nitrites: 0ppm

Nitrates: 20ppm, possibly a little less

Gh: 180

Kh: 50

75-78 degrees

 

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Edited by Jawjagrrl
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On 10/12/2021 at 2:49 PM, Kevin F. said:

What kind of light did you get and how long is it on for?  Also do you have your lights on a timer?

The lights are made by torchstar - conveniently for me were sold in a 2-pack so I have one in each portrait tank. It's a 5watt led( 60), 400lm, CRI: 8+. The tanks are 12" deep despite their small size and don't seem like overkill visually (and I am not a fan of super bright tank lights). They are on timers - right now 7:30-7:30, both in rooms that get some indirect east light. The second tank is perfect, has a similar amount of plants and wood, but less rock. 

Wondered about silicates, but the soil in our area is clay, no sand. maybe 1/4 cup of sand in the problem one, just that little pathway. Both setups have some crushed coral mixed into regular gravel as a base under the aquasoil for kh purposes, since kh is about 30 out of the tap.

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Looks like hair algae, long term fix would be to lower your light exposure, 7:30-7:30 is 12 hours, people recommend 8 hours max. Personally, I find a balance in light and biological treatment. I keep guppies (you can use any algae eating fish) in the tank and they eat it up really fast. It takes a bit of time so dont expect your issue to be resolved overnight. 

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On 10/12/2021 at 3:41 PM, Keeg said:

Looks like hair algae, long term fix would be to lower your light exposure, 7:30-7:30 is 12 hours, people recommend 8 hours max. Personally, I find a balance in light and biological treatment. I keep guppies (you can use any algae eating fish) in the tank and they eat it up really fast. It takes a bit of time so dont expect your issue to be resolved overnight. 

I know 12hours is a lot - but I started there because of the original light being semi-crappy and some of the plants were not lo-light (the buce and the hairgrass). They were struggling, but they are probably struggling more now because of the algae all over them. The betta in there tolerates the rasboras and the nerite snails, but nothing else (he was added last). 

I'll cut back on the light, but the timer is shared with the shrimp tank so I hope that doesn't make those plants suffer. Was I better off with the less bright light after all? Ah.... feeling nostalgic for my plastic plants in my mbuna tank - but determined to make plants happen!

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I agree that lighting should be cut back to eight hours to start to see if that helps with the algae. It'll take a couple weeks to see if that helps. Java fern is a low light plant. Mine didn't do well for months after I added it and is just now thriving and looking healthy so there is hope. My crypts also melted back and took some time to recover, much more than six weeks. Buce is also low light, takes time to acclimate and grows very slowly. I believe hair grass is moderate light and needs root tabs, like Easy Green root tabs as fertilizer. 

I would think your nitrates would be higher if you're overfeeding. If I remember right, plants need at least 20 ppm to thrive, so it sounds like you're good there. 

In my humble opinion, I would start with lighting and see if that helps. If it doesn't, you'll know to adjust something else. I've learned that plants take time to look anywhere close to those beautiful aquascape photos and an algae free tank is kind of unrealistic. Algae is going to happen whether you like it or not, especially in such a new tank. 

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On 10/13/2021 at 7:31 AM, Jennifer V said:

In my humble opinion, I would start with lighting and see if that helps. If it doesn't, you'll know to adjust something else. I've learned that plants take time to look anywhere close to those beautiful aquascape photos and an algae free tank is kind of unrealistic. Algae is going to happen whether you like it or not, especially in such a new tank. 

I have a small organic market garden here, so I think I set a certain personal bar for growing plants underwater based on my success at plants literally 365 days a year outside in a zone where that is a little unusual. 

I've knocked a half hour/hour off the beginning and end of the cycle and thrown in two "siesta" periods to get me to 8.5 hours from 12 for now. I'm still a bit stumped by the mess this tank is while the other two are great that have been running the same time with the same light, comparable plant load. Wishing I had gotten java fern for all the tanks as it is doing great in the other 5gal and already grown quite a bit in just a few weeks. 

I've moved some additional bladder snails from the shrimp tank to help the nerites with the delicate branches and leaves. The buce leaves are totally covered and were mostly melted before, so hoping the healthy looking roots will carry them through.

Thanks for the input and words of encouragement. I know plants require patience, just have to work on that part 🙂 The fish, snails, and shrimp are all doing great thankfully!

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Hang in there, @Jawjagrrl! Four weeks is still almost a brand new tank. It’ll start looking good soon. Here’s what I would do:

-Add some Otocinclus and Amano shrimp to eat the soft brown algae. They’ll do the job and they’re also fun to watch. 

-Remove the hair algae by swirling a toothbrush around the tank. Also use the toothbrush to clean up the other algae if you want.

-Reduce light duration or intensity. The lower light you had originally might work better. 
-Don’t  give up on the stem plants. They might melt, but save whatever lives and nurse that back to health. A healthy plant mass helps outcompete the algae.

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On 10/13/2021 at 2:22 PM, Patrick_G said:

Hang in there, @Jawjagrrl! Four weeks is still almost a brand new tank. It’ll start looking good soon. Here’s what I would do:

-Add some Otocinclus and Amano shrimp to eat the soft brown algae. They’ll do the job and they’re also fun to watch. 

-Remove the hair algae by swirling a toothbrush around the tank. Also use the toothbrush to clean up the other algae if you want.

-Reduce light duration or intensity. The lower light you had originally might work better. 
-Don’t  give up on the stem plants. They might melt, but save whatever lives and nurse that back to health. A healthy plant mass helps outcompete the algae.

I did a dark start in late July, running August 2nd, so actually up longer than I remembered. Just this one being the problem child. I wish I could add otos or amano, but the betta in there went berserk when I tried to add 10 cherry shrimp and stressed half to death before I could rescue them. I do have 2 nerites hard at work and a bunch of bladder snails. I'm doing manual removal with a chopstick as best as I can 2x a day for now and have lowered the light hours total from 12 to 8.5 hrs.

The other tanks the same age are great, so it gives me hope this one will get there too. The stem plants I got in were cuttings, not rooted - my mistake. Still melting 3 weeks later, but maybe some will do ok eventually.

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On 10/13/2021 at 11:42 AM, Jawjagrrl said:

The stem plants I got in were cuttings, not rooted - my mistake. Still melting 3 weeks later, but maybe some will do ok eventually.

Cutting will work. A trick that helps get them started is to float them with the base just above the substrate. Plant weights will help hold them down. 

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It seems you have enough nutrients and your plants need some time to catch up. Try cutting the light period to 7 hours a day and see if that helps. Then you can increase to 8 hours a day. Slow down on the fertilizers until things stabilize, then start adding slowly. Also, can you control the intensity of the light? If you can, try making it 60% intensity as opposed to 100%.

Since you have epiphytes, you have the luxury of putting the ones that like more light closer to the surface/light source. The hairgrass is a tough one to grow lo-tech, but being close to the front glass perhaps adding a small light just for it may help.

As @Patrick_G suggested, not burying them in the substrate can be helpful. I float all new plants for a while until I see sign of new roots, then plant them in the substrate.

Don't give up, it takes time for them to adjust to their new environment. 🙂

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 10/13/2021 at 6:17 PM, Streetwise said:

I see a potential Neocaridina paradise!

That was the original plan - chili rasboras, the "chill" betta, nerite snails and shrimp. The betta that does fine with the rasboras (who were there first) went full rage mode over the shrimp and killed half of them before I got them out - and had no other choice but to move them with the other betta. Who was better, but still hunted them. Now the shrimp are in their own 2.5gal tank, but I'd love them to be in here.

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UPDATE: It didn't take a week, but first chance I've had to post. I did:

- Keep most of the stem plants just above the soil in a weight when they were added 3 weeks ago. Only a couple are doing ok, the rest melted. "Scraps" I had left over that I used in a shrimp tank are doing far better than those in either 5 gallon setup.

- cut this tank back to 8.5 hours from 12, starting later, ending earlier and adding a mid morning and mid afternoon siesta period.

- did continue a squirt of easy green per week in each tank

- threw in a handful of bladder snails of various sizes from the shrimp tank. What a game changer! They looked like tiny lawnmowers as they went over each moss ball. They seemed to kick the sleepy nerites into high gear too as they have been much more active. 

- 4 days after these changes, the tank looked like this! The ferts have helped the surviving hairgrass a bunch - much linger and bright green. I think the most balls have grown and the java moss no longer looks brown. 

Not sure the buce will survive as they are only roots now? The whole back was planted with the stem plant and 2 small clusters are hanging on.

Thanks to everyone for the input. Going through a similar issue with my other five gal, moved a bunch of snails over there for help.

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On 10/22/2021 at 8:39 PM, Streetwise said:

I have varying trust levels for fish with shrimp. Some only go after unlucky fry, and you can maintain a certain population.

If the betta were to get a different setup in the future, I'd love to have the shrimp back in here. They are super happy in their dedicated tank and the bladder snails... I crush the ones ai see under 1mm for them as well as small pieces of... shrimp. My husband thinks they are cannibals now, but I catch him watching them all the time now 🙂

But this tank a work in progress, my first setup with any live plants. Fish and snails are happy and the plants are getting there.

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